Forgive me for being a little cautious, but isn’t Serial Cleaners a rip-off of the excellent indie game Serial Cleaner? Sure, the title is similar, but now they’ve even ripped off Bob’s look and given him some go-faster skunk stripes to make him a little older, a little wiser.
Silly me – this is indeed a sequel. My lack of knowledge is irrelevant as all I did here was accept a review code and give it a whirl. A quick heads up: I haven’t finished it yet and will adjust this review accordingly. There wasn’t enough time to give it the full works. Don’t ask.
Like its predecessor, your job here is to clean up after multiple… unconventional situations. Think Mr Wolf of Pulp Fiction, and you’ll get the idea. Said film plays a big part here, as well as other 90s flicks, plus there are plenty of nods to the era through the shenanigans of the clean-up crew. Emphasis on ‘crew’ as Bob is now joined by three other reprobates who assist him in bringing a scene of a crime to its former glory/sparkle.
Serial Cleaners Review
Set in the 90s, their base is a funeral home that serves as a Family Guy-like hub for exposition. “Do you remember that time where you…” comes to mind as we’ll join the gang, revisiting their introduction into the cleaning world and meeting their illustrious leader, Bob. The 90s is appropriate as we have our bleached-hair thug who has a penchant for cutting things into pieces with a chainsaw, an agile character that would be best suited to feng shui vocational exercises, and, heaven-forbid: a hacker. “I’ve hacked into the mainframe!”.
The premise is simple enough. A deal has gone wrong or whatnot, and you, as the professional cleaner, must go in and eradicate any hint that your employers have been there. Predominantly that means body disposal (or chopping them up and putting them into a woodchipper), retrieving evidence carelessly left behind, plus vacuuming – yes, vacuuming, a lot of blood. Depending on the levels, you’ll have free roam, but once you start rolling your sleeves up, you’ll have some unwanted company, notably the old bill and their atrocious AI.
When the police turn up, they’ll patrol the areas you need access to, hit you with something blunt, and take you down the nick. Getting caught isn’t the be-all and end-all as you’ll either have the option to repeat the same thing – preferably without being seen – or keep a low profile as so many alarms will increase the intensity of a search, meaning you’re more likely to be seen/caught. However… there’s a bit of a cheese technique as should you break the line of sight of your pursuer, you can get away quite quickly, and at times, sprint through a stage with minimum fuss.
Naturally, stealth is key, and each character has their skill set. For the majority of the time, though, you’ll be switching to a special sight that allows you to locate keys, doors, find any evidence remaining, and eliminate any unsightly blood if you missed a bit. It plays out like the original game, only with new abilities, bigger levels, and a little more… stylish.
I played Serial Cleaners entirely on my Steam Deck, and it was a bit… meh. The cutscenes are frequent, over-stylised with some dithering techniques, and perhaps Draw Distance may have told rather than shown. The dialogue was a bit too cliche for me, the voice acting wasn’t anything to write home about (let alone crafting a well-written review – pft! Leave that to the big boys), and it all felt a bit… wooden. I’m sorry, but I was having a hard time with it, and all the character-driven stuff ‘was making it a chore. Like cleaning.
But, Serial Cleaners’ gameplay is ok once you accept it for what it is. Some of the mechanics can be abused, as mentioned, and it can get a little old hat. For me, the original game was much more enjoyable. The narrative left a little more to the imagination; overall, I preferred that over this. Though we should be concentrating on the game released today, I can’t help but want to go back to my Switch and play with the first game instead and get on with the job instead of reliving old straight-to-video dialogue and ropey animation.